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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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What Are Flu Complications?

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Even if you’re usually healthy, the flu can knock you off your feet for days -- even weeks.

And it doesn’t always happen, but there's a chance that it could lead to more serious health problems, or "complications," like sinusitis (sinus infections), bronchitis, or pneumonia.

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Before the latest flu season had officially gotten under way, the swine flu (or H1N1 virus) was already stealing headlines as it left a trail of fever, aches, and general misery across the country. For people with asthma, watching the swine flu sweep across the nation has been especially nerve wracking. Both swine flu and asthma attack the airways, and having both conditions makes people particularly vulnerable to severe respiratory complications from swine flu. "Patients with asthma are more likely...

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But if you know what the symptoms are and how to take precautions, you can avoid these problems and stay healthy.

What Is the Flu?

It's a very contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. People tend to catch it most often in the fall and winter. It comes on fast and strong, spreading through your upper respiratory tract and sometimes invading your lungs.

What Are the Symptoms?

You may have:

What Are the Most Common Complications?

They include viral or bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and ear infections and sinus infections, especially in children. The flu can worsen long-term medical conditions, like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.

You might also have muscle inflammation (myositis), problems with your central nervous system, and heart problems such as heart attacks, inflammation of the organ (myocarditis), and inflammation of the sac around it (pericarditis).

 

Who’s Most Likely to Have Flu Complications?

  • Adults over 65
  • Children ages 6 months to 4 years
  • Nursing home residents
  • Adults and children with heart or lung disease
  • People with compromised immune systems (including people with HIV/AIDS)
  • Pregnant women

What About Pneumonia?

It can happen when the flu virus enters your lung or when you get a bacterial infection during the course of the illness. Pneumonia can make you quite ill and may send you to the hospital.

It can cause chills, fever, chest pains, and sweating. You might have a cough with green or bloody mucus. You could notice a faster pulse, and your lips or nails might have a bluish tint because of a lack of oxygen. Other symptoms include shortness of breath and sharp pains in your chest when you take a deep breath. Seniors may only notice a pain in the belly.

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